Category Message for The Month

Nuclear Power Generation is Like Nuclear Weapons

By Dr. Paul Hwang (Director ALL Forum)

In this September issue, I will talk about and focus a Korean issue in relation to nuclear power generation for Asian young ones.

South Korea’s new president, who was elected in the presidential election last May, has made a number of problematic remarks. Among them, he denounced the previous administration’s nuclear-free policy as “stupid.” “If we had not done stupid things for five years and had built a solid nuclear power plant ecosystem, there would be no competitors now,” said the new president.

Judging from this logic, the current government’s ‘not stupid’ is, of course, a ‘pro-nuclear policy’. To revitalize the nuclear power plant industry, it is said that the nuclear power plant will be built again, and old nuclear power plants close to its expiry will be utilized by extending their lifespan. t is an energy policy in the opposite direction to that of the previous government. From the current government’s point of view, not only the previous government, but also the Korean Catholic Church, which opposes all nuclear technologies including nuclear power plants, is doing something stupid also.

This is because the Catholic Church’s opposition to nuclear technology is clearly expressed in the document titled “Nuclear Technology and the Teachings of the Church – The Korean Catholic Church’s Reflection on Nuclear Power” published by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK) in November, 2013. After the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan in March 2011, the CBCK published this document to urge the transition to a nuclear-free society.

This pamphlet is based on the conviction that “nuclear power generation poses a serious threat to mankind and will leave a catastrophe for future generations.” In particular, the bishops decided to use the term ‘nuclear technology’ as an official term rather than the term ‘atomic power generation’ in response to the problem of diluting the negative image of nuclear technology. In particular, it raises the issue of the right to life and the right to the environment in relation to nuclear weapons.

“In relation to nuclear weapons, things to reflect on are especially the right to life and the right to the environment. Nuclear technology (nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants) seriously violates the right to life and the right to the environment. The logic of nuclear deterrence that we have nuclear weapons to protect our right to life is not valid. … The logic that nuclear power is a means for economic development is also unacceptable. Everyone has economic rights. But no right can take precedence over the right to life” (no.119).

It also points out that “The government, business, science and media all approach nuclear weapons and nuclear power generation only with economic logic without ethical reflection.” (no.135) As I mentioned earlier, the current government announced that it would push ahead with the plan to include nuclear power in Korea’s “K-Taxonomy” or the green classification system, going beyond the ‘foolishness’ of the previous administration’s policy to phase out nuclear power. Renewable energy, which must be urgently increased to respond to the climate crisis, is behind the scenes. It remains to be seen whether the energy policy of ‘increasing only nuclear power plants’ in Korea, where the share of renewable energy is the only one among major countries, is desirable.

Let’s go back to the document of the Korean bishops who are deeply concerned about the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis in Japan. They point out that the problem of radioactive contamination at the Fukushima nuclear power plant still shows no sign of being resolved. The problem with nuclear power plants, as seen in the Fukushima accident, is beyond human capabilities to manage.

I talked much about the Korean nuclear power issue here, but in fact, the confrontation between India and Pakistan both of whom have nuclear weapons, is a very serious problem, along with the issue of denuclearization between the South and the North Korea, and the discharge of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plants. It is important to publicize the still controversial nuclear power plant issue and lead an open and transparent discussions on it.

From a Christian’s point of view, it seems appropriate for the current society to move away from the social atmosphere that despises life because of its economic value and move toward a society that truly respects life. It is time to seriously consider the transition to a renewable, eco-friendly energy-centered policy, rather than nuclear or coal-fired power generation that forces the suffering of the powerless.

One Week with Indonesian Young Ones

By Dr.Paul Hwang (Director ALL Forum)

After a long time, ALL Forum has finished the Moving School program. Physically, it has been about two and a half years since the outbreak of COVID-19, but the psychological time feels much longer than that. Why did I feel that way? I couldn’t figure out the reason even if I thought about it, but I realized it only when I came to Indonesia where the program was held. More precisely, it was thanks to children and young people who I met when we as a group visited Pesantren, an Islamic boarding school, as part of the program. Their simple expressions with full smiles on faces, shy talks and gestures, their ceaseless and enjoyable jokes from indefinite optimism toward life, and their seriousness and passion on the other hand…etc. When I felt the surging sense of liberation almost to the tip of my head, I found myself most like myself.

Personally, I think for a moment that this is why I have been walking around in Asia for some 20 years. Eventually, it has been my desire to know and feel to grasp something behind in the invisible value they show and live with. But this kind of ‘romance’ began to crack when the program began the next day. They often delay 10 to 20 minutes when a session or workshop starts or has to end, laugh when they have to be serious, or break the situation where order is naturally required as if nothing happened. For me, who is familiar with a life of establishing and following standards and norms, this “disorderedness” took a considerable amount of time and effort to digest. evertheless, it’s always unfamiliar and takes a good time and effort to adapt. So it is time to decide whether I’m going to be a “realistic romantist” or a “romantic realist.” This distinction looks like a pun, but it is an important guide for me. It is whether I should start with the former which sees something behind first of what appears to be disordered, that is, a mixture of paradox between focused and distracted, as an order. Or it shoud be the latter can be said to begin with the laughter of these young ones who indefinitely affirm tomorrow even if today is hungry and difficult.

This characteristic could be generalized and understood not only for Indonesian youth but also for Southeast Asian young ones. Even compared to young people from South Asian countries, Southeast Asian counterparts seem to have more leeway or space in which they enjoy more freedom than following any framework or norms. The difference is more pronounced in comparison to Korean youth as East Asian. I have witnessed it when ALL Forum’s pan-Asian programs are held, Korean youth seem to be unable to mingle with this “undisciplined” Southeast Asian young people. But all I mentioned above is based on my personal experiences which is not objective if not groundless. Over the past 30 years, growing religious fundamentalism and hardline militant groups have caused tensions rather than peaceful coexistence between religions and harmed the rights and safety of minorities. Public spaces, including places of worship, were not uncommon targets of bombing and churches were closed for causing confusion. Also, the religious life of Shiites and Ahmadiya Muslims is becoming increasingly difficult. The imprisonment of the former Christian Jakarta governor, who was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy in 2017, has become a symbolic case that shows the difficulty of peaceful and harmonious coexistence between religions in Indonesia.

Along with this situation, socioeconomic poverty makes the future prospects of youth even darker. It is not difficult to hear in Indonesia and other conflict-affected countries in Asia that young people without jobs are lured into terrorist groups for just some money. Young people blindly accept a promise to get out of poverty, even if it is a situation that easily drives them to death. Therefore, religious hostility, poverty, and inequality in Indonesian society become fertile land where violence and extremism flourish. Nevertheless, statistics show that nearly half of Indonesia’s young people feel happy, and that this is one of the happiest people in the world. If we focus on the latter without considering the former we can’t but help to end up with prejudice and even distortion of the reality young people in Asia face. It could be “moderate and reformative Islam”, “development of democracy”, “participation in intercultural dialogue and collaboration”, which make young ones in Indonesia smile, laughter and lots of jokes for the bright future. Where is the place or role of religions especially Asian Christianity among them?.*

Which Family is ‘Holy’?

By Dr. Paul Hwang (Director ALL Forum)

Following changing the times so many different types of family are changing also. Among them is ‘one family household’ which has become predominant in the urbanized cities in many parts of the world including Asia. For a long time the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) has dealt with family as an important pastoral concern clearly seen in the final documents of 6th and 7th plenary assemblies of it along with other issues such as indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees, ecology, youth and women and girl children. I will talk about how the Catholic church in Asia put more emphasis on the ‘Holy Family’ myth in it which needs to be interpreted differently.

The ideology of ‘normal family’ or ‘healthy family’ was projected into the church without much resistance. That seems to have been revealed in the church in the form of changing only clothes under the term ‘Holy Family.’ It can be said that this historically represents the interests of the white middle class in the West. However, what is more problematic is that a family is divided based on ‘the Sacred
and the Profane (Secular)’ above all else. Such dualistic distinction can be said to be a religious feature with deep roots seen in many religions, including Christianity. But the understanding of the Bible, especially the superficial understanding of Jesus’ family, seems to have played a part. In other words, it seems that it has been divided into a ‘normal vs abnormal’ family by focusing on the family of ‘children with parents’ like Jesus with Joseph and Maria as parents.

Illustration of Jesus Family

That has been accepted and used without any problem in the church. In order to be free from criticism of the church and theological realization of the ‘normal family myth’ that the church sees children with parents as normal families, it should be followed based on how Jesus views the family in the Gospel. In fact, the view of Jesus’ family in the Bible is very revolutionary. “Who is my mother and my brothers?” “These are my mother and my brothers. It is my brother, sister and mother who do God’s will.” (Mark, 3:33-35) Here, it can be interpreted as saying that all those who ‘do God’s will’ are not tied to blood.

Regarding the subject of this writing, the place where people working for the “Kingdom of God” gathered can be called family in a broad sense. Meanwhile, “Why did you look for me? Didn’t I know I was supposed to be in my father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) The passage shows that ‘home’ as a physical space is not a family. This can be interpreted complementarily to the family view of the aforementioned Gospel of Mark. To say that Jesus must be in the ‘Father’s house’ can be engraved with the meaning of always being in the Kingdom of God or with God. This means that Jesus is not alone, but God with those who work for the Kingdom, that is, with the new meaning of ‘family’. Or, in the sense of being together in the kingdom of God, the two can be connected to understand each other complementary to each other.

Just as Asian societies, including Korea, have to break free from the myth of a ‘normal’ family, the church needs to break free from the concept of ‘Holy Family’ brought up as a custom. This can start by reinterpreting the concept of the holy family. The concept has clear limited and distort image of what it means to be ‘holy’. It is as if only a family that has both parents who are believers, and has been in a safe and comfortable situation, is called a ‘holy family.’ If then there are very few families that belong to this category. From a sociological rather than theological point of view of Jesus’ family, his mother was a ‘single mother’ and his father was a stepfather. Even worse, Jesus himself got killed young which is to be called ‘holy’? From this Jesus’ family type would have been viewed as a so-called
‘problematic family’? Nevertheless, Jesus’ family is the holy one because it was gathered around Jesus-Christ, Jesus-Spirit and Jesus-God. If we gather around Jesus’ love and mercy, hope and commitment to his mission, we can say that any type of family is a holy one

Food Insecurity in Asia and Global Catholic Citizenship

By Dr. Paul Hwang (Director ALL Forum)

We have heard of food and energy crisis in many parts of the world including Asia since Russian invasion in Ukraine has begun in February, 2022. Statistically speaking, 36 countries imported more than 50% of their wheat from Russia or Ukraine in 2020. Compared to this, in March 2022, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Food Price Index leapt to its highest level since its inception in 1990.

Although Asian countries improved their food supply by harvesting a lot of crops this year, hunger is rampant in some countries in Asia especially North Korea. Quite similar is four countries like Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Mongolia are facing food shortages, according to the FAO announced in May, 2022. The UN body predicted that North Korea’s food situation would continue to deteriorate. It added that North Korea’s rice and corn stockpiles are expected to run out within this month unless additional emergency food aid is provided.

What made its situation worse is the Covid19 which has just been outbroken and infected 4 million people there. In addition to North Korea, Cambodia and Laos are suffering from food shortages due to flooding, drought in Sri Lanka, and complicated problems resulting from the transition from centralized to free market system in Mongolia. In particular, in Laos, 420,000 people, a quarter of the total population, are in need of emergency aid.

What is the causes of hunger and food insecurity in many countries in the world and Asia? Generally it is due to economic instability such as conflict, poverty, hyperinflation and rising commodity prices, and environmental factors such as floods and droughts. This time is different simply because of the pandemic. Blockades and closures caused by the deadly virus have devastated people’s livelihoods and led to a sharp increase in poverty and inequality around the world.

Ilustration: Food Security

In many countries, restrictions and blockades for quarantine measures for more than two years have also meant suspension of food supplies, delays in overseas remittances, and suspension of school meals. The sharp rise in food prices is putting a huge strain on household finances, and poor families are being hit hard.

Conflict and all kinds of war are the biggest cause of hunger in the world, and 65% of people who actually face severe food insecurity are caused by conflict and civil war according to news reports. In third-world countries, poverty and prolonged conflict have destroyed their livelihoods, forced families to leave their homes, and countless children, including girls, are suffering from hunger most.

We can’t say more about the cause of hunger without saying about climate change. Hurricanes, cyclones, floods and droughts because of it affect harvests, leading to food insecurity. Climate change also increases the spread of crop pestssuch as locusts, damaging and destroying crops to harvest. Inflation and the economic crisis have affected food accessibility for many people. Even if food is available, it is too expensive to make it easy for many people to get it. Due to the influence of the pandemic, many people lost their livelihoods and their income decreased.

Who are the most vulnerable to this kind of hunger, food crisis or food insecurity? Women and girls account for 70 percent of the world’s hungered. And as families and communities struggle, girls are more likely to quit school than boys, and are more likely to be at risk of child, early marriage, gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and unwanted pregnancy. In addition, starvation is particularly dangerous for adolescent girls and pregnant or breastfeeding women, increasing the risk of miscarriage or death during childbirth.

This is a report from a NGO working for women and girl children. What has all the information got to do with Catholics like us? We as a Catholic are not to be confined in our country nor a continent but to be identified as a world Catholic citizen who concerns for the poor people in the world. When you put yourself as a global citizen and look at the poor suffering hunger, it will be only then that the problem of global poverty, food crisis, and hunger comes into the task of yours as a global Catholic with the full spirit of Catholic citizenship.

Indeed, the word “Catholic” or “Catholicity” means the universe or the pluriverse if you want from the beginning. Therefore, a Catholic is born to be a concerned neighbor who takes good care of the marginalized and abandoned in the world and the universe.

Asian Catholic Citizenship against ‘Fake News’ and Disinformation

Asian Catholic Citizenship against ‘Fake News’ and Disinformation

By: Dr. Paul Hwang (Director of ALL FORUM)

In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, fake news became a global phenomenon as former President Trump sparked controversy over “fake news.” It was fake news that influenced the success of Trump and Hillary in the election at that time. Fake news, which began with the curiosity of teenage students in a rural village in Macedonia, one small country in Europe little to do with the US election, served as a powerful force for the President Trump’s election.

At that time, the U.S. pointed to Russia as the epicenter of the fake news. Although Russia made headlines in the U.S. media for intervening in the U.S. presidential election to help Trump win, it had to be correctly aware of the rapidly changing reality of the global community as the epicenter was revealed after the presidential election that the genuine agent for the fake news was the teenagers not Russia.

Meanwhile, Trump accused social media operators of abusing their authority and undermining political neutrality under the Article 230 of the Communications Decency Act in EU, which granted full immunity to Internet service providers. Since then, discussions on revising Article 230 of the Act targeting platforms have continued, but it seems difficult to revise Article 230, which has become the cornerstone of the development of the U.S. Internet industry.

The teenage students who created the aforementioned fake news made a lot of money from the news, which served as a reason for the emergence of people challenging the rich YouTuber throughout the world. In Korea, the announcement of the survey that the number one job young people want to do in the future is a YouTuber is now a frequent thing to hear. Fake news is different from rumors. It is fake news to create something that is not true, produce it under the name of news, and distribute it to the public.

The impact of fake news is great because people are more interested in fake things that are made more dynamically than true. It is deceiving the public with provocative text, and causing damage to someone by spreading it. The public sees fake news that they often encounter even though they know it’s not true. However, the public doesn’t spend time verifying facts over fake and real things.

As fake things repeat, the facts drift apart, and at that moment fake news becomes real news. As the name fake news itself causes various confusion, the United Nations recommends that academia and countries around the world use the terms “disinformation” and “misinformation” instead of ambiguous terms “fake news.” In particular, in March 2018, the UN European Commission proposed using the term “disinformation” instead of fake news in a report titled “multidimensional approach to false information” involving 49 high-ranking experts, including scholars, journalists and platform operators.

False information is spreading online in various forms such as comments, Twitter, and YouTube videos as well as news, and the term fake news makes false information misunderstood as being limited to news. It also analyzed that politicians tend to shrink press freedom by calling media reports critical or unfavorable to them as fake news. The report defined disinformation as ‘false, inaccurate or misleading information designed, produced, and distributed for the purpose of harming the public or for profit’. There is another example of what happened in Asia regarding fake news.

In 2017, at least eight people were killed in India because of false information. Seven were lynched by angry crowds for false information that they had kidnapped a child and that one had eaten a sacred cow. The route through which this false information spread was a mobile messaging app most frequently used by Indians, called WhatsApp. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, an independent U.S. statistical research institute, India has the fourth highest social hostilities index due to religious conflicts in the world.

The reason why false information circulating on the Internet could be ignited by violence is political and social hostility that supports false information, not WhatsApp itself. Let’s get back to the EU Commission. The commission conducted a wide range of online consultations that could include citizens like Internet service providers, and conducted a common form of research to find out the reality of false information in 28 EU member countries.

The conclusion of the report, which a group of high-level experts put forward after months of deliberation, was not legislation. Rather, it advised, “Avoid overly simple solutions.” “Only when all stakeholders cooperate can false information be efficiently handled in a way that is consistent with freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and pluralism.” Here, freedom of expression and freedom of speech are very important issues when dealing with fake news and false information.

Therefore, it is important to note the issue of freedom of speech or regulation of fake news in a way that democracy is protected in the immediate context, not in a choice of two. If the production and distribution of false information are not only a day or two, what governments in Asia should do should start by grasping what it is rather than hastily declaring an all-out war on “fake news.” The defense of democracy and the fight against false information do not end at once. High education is not being implemented in this regard, but if any it is only a self-study class.

Democracy, in which citizens are main agent, develops the ability to think reasonably and independently. In order to grow into a conscious citizen, proper media education and a sense of citizenship that does not waver even if fake news is rampant are needed. Saying that both the protection of victims and “freedom of speech” by “fake news” are equally important without considering the specific context only obscures the seriousness of the problem and does not help solve the problem at all. It seems fair and democratic to treat both equally, but priorities must be clarified to make democracy a sustainable system.

Cardinal Kim and Religious Pluralism in Asia

By Dr. Paul Hwang

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of the 2nd Vatican Council, and it is also the year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Cardinal Kim Soo-hwan, who has passed away some 10 years ago and most passionately introduced and spread the results and documents of the council to the Korean church. In honor of the deceased, for the readers of this month news letter of ALL Forum, I would like to briefly talk about the spirit of poverty and religious and cultural pluralism that Cardinal Kim usually emphasized.

Not much is known about the relationship between Cardinal Kim and FABC. However, according to the testimony of Thomas Fox, founder of the Catholic weekly in the US, and Catalino Arevalo SJ, dubbed the “Father of Filipino theology,” one of the actual founders is Cardinal Kim. In particular, Cardinal Kim’s the ‘spirit of being poor’ seems to have gained great resonance and sympathy when Asian bishops first met in Manila in 1970, and also inspired the famous Triple Dialogue of FABC, especially dialogue with the poor which is its founding spirit. Pope John 23, who convened the council, advocated the “Church of the Poor” ahead of CELAM or liberation theology, which must have influenced cardinal Kim’s view of the church as well as the council.

Therefore, the link between the council and Cardinal Kim can be said to be this spirit of poverty, and it can be said that it was deeply engraved in the spirit of FABC through Father Arevalo. Therefore, it is presumed that Cardinal Kim was the one who inspired Father Arevalo, who formalized the three-dimensional dialogue with poor people, various religious traditions, and rich cultural diversity at the 1st General Assembly of FABC in Taipei in 1974.

This reasoning includes that not only cardinal Kim’s spirit of poverty but also religious and cultural pluralism stemming from the multi-religious situation in Korea influenced the spirit of triple dialogue. In this way, it can be said that Cardinal Kim had a great influence on the basic theological principle and pastoral direction of FABC as well as the structure and formality of the establishment of it.

While inheriting the spirit of dialogue in the council, the Asian face of God’s salvific economy is revealed by placing it in the context of religious and cultural pluralism in the triple dialogue. It is said that there is an inseparable relationship between the great religious traditions of Asia and the lives of the people, that is, religious and cultural pluralism, and the lives of the poor as subjects. Through this relationship, Asian Christianity forms ‘wholeness’ as holiness. In other words, salvation in Asia is not limited to the walls of churches, but is realized within these relationships with other religions and cultures.

In this regard, of course, Vatican II has something to say. This is because the Gaudiem et Spes or Joy and Hope, one of the most important documents of the pastoral council, clearly shows the advocacy of religious and cultural pluralism by saying, “We foster within the church herself mutual esteem, reverence and harmony, through the full recognition of lawful diversity” (para. 92). If the council accepts diversity and pluralism in such a basic form, the FABC differs in that it comprehensively turns it into the context of “true value” and “something that should be honored and promoted.”

Cardinal Kim’s inclusive and open view of other religions also seems to have had a great influence on the triple dialogue. He said, “The Council emphasizes the study of discovering appropriate spiritual values not only in Confucianism and Buddhism but also in shamanism.”

The Cardinal did not only mention shamanism, but ask to embrace it by putting it side by side with the great religious traditions calling for active inclusion. He also said that the church should try to open its heart to other religions. In another place, he once again talked about it by saying, “Korean Catholicism is still deeply immersed in the way of conversation in life with other religious traditions and philosophy such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, shamanism, etc.”

The fact that this proposal came out in the 1970s and 1980s shows how open Cardinal Kim is to the reality of life of religious and cultural pluralism in Korea and Asia. This is all the more so “religious pluralism” in the churches in the world including Asian’s, almost 50 years after he mentioned it as such, is being treated like something to be avoided or suspected of.

Observing the Month of Anti-Discrimination

By Dr. Paul Hwang

We have “discrimination” as a main theme for the ALL Forum’s newsletter in March this year. It is not only because we observe the “International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination” on March 21 but we celebrate the “International Women’s Day” in March 8 designated by United Nations. According to UN, the COVID-19 has heavily impacted people, especially young ones Including those from minority backgrounds. It points out that “Many are now grappling with an increase in racial discrimination, in addition to severe disruptions to their education….” It also reckons that under the pandemic, women face greater vulnerability to multiple forms of discrimination, including those who are older women, those living with disabilities, LGBTQI and trans women, migrants, displaced and refugee women, and many others.

As mentioned above, in such a difficult situation, horrible news related to racial and gender discrimination has been often heard in many countries in the world. Recently, a young white man killed eight people, including six Asian women, in Atlanta, USA, which looked a ‘hate crime’ not an accidental one. As former President Trump constantly called Covid19 “China Virus” and the media inserted photos of Chinatown or Asians in news reports of the pandemic which have hardly to do with China and emphasized China as the source, it seemed to have eventually led to violence and hatred against Asians. Many countries in Asia including Korea have gone through similar experiences.

Migrant peoples like migrant workers and even students from Southeast have been experiencing discrimination and violence against them in the country. It was the first time the exclusion and discrimination faced by Muslims in Korea have been broadcast in public media. In Daegu, a city of the southern part of the country, a small mosque under construction was suspended due to opposition from its residents. Residents complained that they would not accept the culture of Islam and all the inconveniences including its making noise and smell from cooking foods which were very new to the residents. It was the major reason for stopping the construction.

If our readers of the newsletter see the WTI’s webinar for the matter in the March issue, all of you may know what Pastor Park Sung-min, a commentator in the webinar, said about the discrimination against Muslim. He said that it is an undeniable “discrimination” that the district office ordered the suspension of construction just one day after the residents filed a petition against it. It is quite true for him to say that it would have been different if it were a Church, a Buddhist temple, or a Cathedral, not a Muslim mosque. Their opposition and conflict has been deepened and worsened because of the administrative order ofthe office. He stressed that “If we can’t accept the Muslim students as our neighbors, it’s like breaking our community eventually.

Rather, creating a community with diversity is what we should aim for.” It is amazing to hear from Abdul Yekeen, the speaker and one of the 150 graduate students involved in the incident, saying on the February 22 nd webinar that “The residents protested against it yesterday too, but I want to reconcile as soon as possible with hope.” He said his taking the legal action for lifting the suspension of construction in reluctant manner. ”We are clearly aware of the residentsopposition to reconstruction, not against us (Muslims). Because of the conflict, our good perception of Koreans has not changed,“ he said. He then stressed, “Since it appears in the Quran (Islamic scriptures) that you are not a Muslim in faith if you do not do well to your neighbors, and that you are not a believer if you do not love them.”

Abul’s statement were echoed by one participant when she shared her experience for about two years with a Syrian family. They were very open-minded, and she wanted to resemble and respected as religious people when she saw them praying in time regardless of locations. In addition, she was curious about how Abul felt about Koreans after the conflict with the residents. She was very impressed by Abdul’s positive response to the residents because of which she thanked Muslims for their tolerance and virtue from their religion.

What I want to say from the webinar especially Abdul’s response in relation to discrimination is that it has been worsened because of the governmental or the district office’s decision, in this case on the structural level. On the personal level, all kinds of discrimination must be overcome by experiencing and understanding the situation and only then, mutually articulating decisions.

How can we realize Synodality within Asian Context?

By Dr. Paul Hwang // Director of ALL Forum

The year 2022 has come. There are many big anniversaries this year. It is the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Vatican II and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC) with official approval from the Vatican. It is also the year when all the diocesan Synod is expected to be held around the world under the theme of “Synodality” with the aim of the participation of the whole People of God. Let’s take this opportunity to think about how to view the Council and how Synodality should be realized at the Asian church level.

First of all, the attitude of considering the Council as an absolute, decisive, and irreversible truth and applying it to all situations as an idea that has indeed spread quite widely and strongly to Asian churches should be reconsidered. As an open ended process, the Council should not be “re-accepted” but “re-created” locally. The documents of the council is surely recognized by its theological meaning and importance. But since it is the product of debates and compromises among the then participated bishops a relevant view or a proper hermeneutics is important.

In other words, given ‘ Gaudium et Spes ’ is the key to reading the rest of its documents, it should not be forgotten that the idea of “People of God” is the keyword that consistently interprets the various theories on Church or ecclesiology and the identity of laypeople defined by the Council.

Second, the context in which we ask for the identity and role of laypersons is very different from the past. It is the fact that humanity is entering a very strange and new world that has never been experienced before, with millions dying from the outbreak of COVID-19, and advances in artificial intelligence, robots, and life sciences on the verge of human immortality.

In this situation, asking who the laypeople are?’ should be an expression of interest and solidarity for the whole human beings and the world beyond the walls of Church. How it should be expressed in Asia becomes the third question we have to consider. Lay people in Asia should devote themselves to practicing liberation, inculturation, and interreligious dialogue raised in under the context like extreme poverty, diverse cultures, various great religious traditions, which are the background of the FABC’s formulation of “Triple Dialogue” for the past 50 years. The laypeople should transform the clergy-centered Asian church into a “public church” so that they can meet this task.

Finally, it is of great significance to hold a synod aimed at ‘decentralization’ and participation of the whole People of God for the first time in the Church history. It would be a possible occasion for evaluation of large and small changes that Pope Francis has made under the name of “Church reform.” The synod, which is based on the theme of Synodality, mainly deals with the process of joint cooperation or joint agreement of the people of God, so it would be a touchstone that allows the Council to adapt once again to the changed reality.

Pointing out the gap between daily life and faith as a significant error in modern times, Gaudium et Spes emphasizes that laypeople show the spirit worldliness and citizenship of the Council by suggesting that they should act as citizens of the world (par. 43). In addition, it is considered that the document clearly shows that it is “defending religious and cultural pluralism” (par 92). And it has actually and practically helped a new inspiration and passion rooted into FABC. This is particularly important for Asian laypeople who live/practice pluralism as a daily life, and it is also a valuable theological asset to save lay theology for them, which presents ‘baptism’ as a bastion of the universal priesthood amid majority of people believing in different religions in Asia.

In addition, I believe that synodality or collaboration among the whole People of God is important as a concrete and regional practice and implementation of the Council, going beyond the idea “collegiality” of bishops alone emphasized by the Council. Since this is also important in the issue of church leadership, it is suggested that collegiality should be expanded to all levels of the Church to move toward a ‘cooperative Church leadership’. This suggests that the lay council as a partner organization of the bishop should be established in all the levels of Church including parish, diocese as well as national and universal level. By doing so, I believe that abstract and hard-to-grasp word Synodality can be realized within Asian context.